Her hands clasped as if in prayer, Barbara Sheehan looked out at a courtroom that had been transformed into a sea of purple worn by family and friends — the color representing domestic violence awareness —and began to sob, her shoulders heaving as the Howard Beach woman spoke about the morning she shot her husband, Raymond Sheehan, 11 times.
It was cold that day, Feb. 18, 2008, with a mist of rain coating the world outside the Sheehans’ home, where the couple had lived for much of their 24-year marriage, Sheehan testified during her trial at the Queens Supreme courthouse in Kew Gardens on Monday. Inside this house, Barbara Sheehan said she was trying to figure out how to escape from her husband, a retired NYPD sergeant, whom she believed was planning to soon kill her after two decades of alleged abuse that she testified included punching her in the face, smashing her head into cinder blocks while on vacation, dumping boiling marinara sauce on her and threatening to kill her children and other members of her family if she ever told anyone what was going on.
That February morning, Barbara Sheehan said she told her husband she would not accompany him on a planned vacation to Florida because she feared for her life. Allegedly enraged, Raymond Sheehan kicked his wife out of the house in her pajamas and told her she could not come back in until she decided to fly later that day with him to Florida, she said during her nearly six hours of testimony on Monday.
“I was out there for 45 minutes, an hour,” Sheehan said. “I was wet and cold and he kept screaming that if I didn’t go to Florida, I couldn’t come in. So I finally said I’d go to Florida.”
Upon entering the home where Barbara Sheehan, 50, raised two children, Jennifer, 25, and Raymond Jr., 21, she said her husband put a gun to her head and forced her to change their reservations so their return flight was from Fort Meyers instead of West Palm Beach —where her family lived.
“He put his gun to my head and said if I didn’t call, he was gonna kill me,” Sheehan said.
After she changed the reservation, Raymond Sheehan went into the bathroom, one of his guns in tow, Barbara Sheehan said.
“I told him I had to get dog food,” Sheehan said. “… I asked him to open the door, and he had a gun in his hand, and he said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’ I could see his eyes, and they were just glazed over. There was nothing in them. They were just blank, and it was so scary. I knew he was going to kill me.”
After her husband pointed the gun at her, Barbara Sheehan said she ran into the bedroom to grab the money she had been saving in order to leave her husband and saw another of his guns, a .38-caliber revolver, there. She said she picked it up because she believed her husband might not shoot her if she also was armed.
“As I got to the bathroom door, he picked up the gun again and aimed it at my head and said he was going to kill me,” Sheehan said. “I shot the gun … He kept screaming, ‘I’m gonna f-ing kill you,’ and he was reaching for the gun.”
Saying she did not know how many times she had fired, Sheehan said she stopped shooting “when I didn’t feel threatened by him anymore.”
Barbara Sheehan shot her husband 11 times — five times with the revolver and six more with his Glock.
She said she didn’t want to kill him but “just wanted him to stop, to not kill me.”
First questioned by her attorney, Michael Dowd, and then by Assistant District Attorney Debra Pomodore, who is prosecuting the case, Sheehan testified about a marriage that she said was characterized by years of fear, of a husband whom she met when she was 17 years old and who, after the birth of their son in 1990, she said would threaten to kill her children and her family members, many of whom lived within several blocks of their Howard Beach home, if she ever mentioned the alleged abuse.
He was a man, she said, who would splash boiling marinara sauce on her after deciding he didn’t want to eat what she had prepared for dinner, shove her to the ground and step on her, and make her watch him as he dressed up in women’s underwear, skirts and tights.
“He’d bring pictures home of difference crime scenes, of bodies, and he’d say that’s what I would look like if I told anybody,” Sheehan told the jurors.
While on vacation in 2007 with their son and friends, Barbara Sheehan said her husband smashed her head against the wall after he became irate that she had woken him up to go to dinner.
“He chased me down when I was trying to leave the room,” Sheehan said. “He beat me in the room. He grabbbed the back of my hair… and kept beating my head on the cinder block walls of the hotel room. He cut my head open. I was bleeding all over.”
Raymond Sheehan then told those he was with that his wife had “slipped and fell in the shower,” she testified.
When Pomodore, the prosecutor, began to question Sheehan on Monday, she emphasized that the Howard Beach resident had numerous family members and friends living close to her and then went on to say that Raymond Sheehan had “always helped financially,” including to purchase Barbara Sheehan presents, to fund vacations and to put their two children through private school.
“He provided health insurance for you and your children,” Pomodore said. “You had a very lovely home up until you shot and killed her your husband.”
Pomodore went on to describe Raymond Sheehan as a family man who rarely missed a game of football that his son would play while the quarterback at St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows.
The ADA noted Sheehan had coached his son in several sports, including baseball and hockey.
When Pomodore asked if Sheehan had often gone to his daughter’s cheerleading events, Barbara Sheehan said he had gone to only one of her games.
Both of her children have appeared in court with Barbara Sheehan since she was arrested. Her daughter told The New York Times that she went to her father’s funeral because she “just wanted to see for myself that he was dead.”